To be clear, George Rover is not looking to step on the toes of individual state regulators. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Rover envisions a world in which sports betting operators across the nation share information to better protect the integrity of the industry and sports.
And that world is almost reality.
Last week, a national alliance, the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association (SWIMA), announced its formation.
Featuring executives from Caesars and MGM as founding members, SWIMA is “designed as a collaborative entity to partner with state and tribal gaming regulators; federal, state and tribal law enforcement; and other various stakeholders to detect and discourage fraud and other illegal or unethical activity related to betting on sporting events.”
Modeled after ESSA in Europe, SWIMA, a nonprofit organization, becomes the first of its kind in the US as state-sanctioned sports betting continues to expand. The group plans to launch in 90 days.
As the industry grows — eight states have regulated markets, including sports betting in New Jersey — SWIMA enters as a helping hand.
And Rover, the association’s chief integrity officer who will oversee day-to-day operations, assured that his group would be there for just that.
“It doesn’t get any clearer to you that we’re all in bed together on this,” Rover said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I am committed to making sure that I deliver or act in a way that delivers the product that (regulators) would like to have.”
SWIMA to monitor sports betting integrity
The reasoning behind forming SWIMA is not complicated, said Rover, the former deputy director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.
“I think the simple reason is they have one in Europe that works fairly effectively, so why wouldn’t we need to have one in the United States.”
After US stakeholders expressed a desire to form a similar association to ESSA, SWIMA stepped into the spotlight.
The association’s principal goal, from a release, “is to protect customers, operators and other stakeholders from potential fraud caused by the unfair manipulation of events on which betting is offered.”
“Reaching this goal requires a multi-jurisdictional approach with operators in different states and tribal jurisdictions sharing information related to unusual or suspicious activity in their sports betting operations within and between different markets and, when appropriate, with gaming regulators and law enforcement.”
Part of SWIMA’s mission includes providing “a safe and secure betting environment” for customers taking part in legalized wagering.
Additionally, the association aims “to protect the integrity of sports betting and its related activity.” This includes identifying “bad actors” while discouraging “activities that profit from unfair betting markets.”
Per Rover in the release, SWIMA will partner with gaming regulators and law enforcement in states with legalized sports betting. In so doing, a crackdown can begin to “undermine fraud and manipulation and protect the integrity of sports betting.”
Fully funded by its members, which features “most of the major sports betting operators,” SWIMA does not require outside help from sports leagues, governments, or taxpayers.
SWIMA a step forward
With SWIMA, sports betting operators in various states will have the ability to communicate with each other. That interstate communication, Rover noted, is significant.
“It’s very important,” he said. “Operators in New Jersey need to be aware of what operators in Mississippi are saying. If you’re going to effectively police the integrity of sporting events, you need to know what’s going on in all the various jurisdictions. To have them siloed independently without them communicating with each other is not a way to address integrity nationally.”
The American Gaming Association seems to agree, as indicated in a statement from AGA executive Sara Slane.
“The formation of [SWIMA] serves as another important milestone toward realizing the benefits of a legal, regulated sports betting market in the United States, which provides robust consumer protection, increased transparency and additional tax revenues for state and local governments.”
Complementing state regulators
Before coming to light, SWIMA representatives spoke with regulators in states that have already implemented and launched legalized sports betting.
All of them, Rover said, favor the existence and purpose of SWIMA.
“It’s designed to pull in information from the operators and assess it in a certain degree,” Rover said, describing his association, “and then provide and communicate with regulators in certain instances where they might be some unusual circumstances regarding betting patterns.”
In no way, Rover emphasized, will SWIMA “infringe on or supplant” the jurisdictions of state regulators. As opposed to taking the place of regulators, SWIMA stands as “complementary to anything that regulators do.”
Rover said SWIMA welcomes input from state regulators on how they would like the association to operate. That includes how and when information is communicated by SWIMA.
SWIMA expects to become operational within 90 days. Rover, however, expressed a desire for an earlier timeline.
“I’m very much hoping,” he said, “that it will be shorter than that.”